People & Business : RSA redefines work without its director

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The Independent Online
You may know that the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, better known as the RSA, is chaired by Pru Leith, the famous upmarket caterer.

What was certainly news to me is that Peter Cowling, the RSA's director for just over a year, has just resigned "to pursue other business opportunities".

James Sandison, the RSA's director of finance, has stepped into the breach as acting director.

Sources close to the RSA's John Adam Street offices, off the Strand in London, say the ousted Mr Cowling is in line for a pounds 200,000 pay-off. Apparently the redoubtable Ms Leith and Mr Cowling did not gel too well.

A spokeswoman for the RSA insists the parting of the ways has been entirely amicable. As for any pay-off, she says: "I don't know about that."

The RSA has run a number of high-profile campaigns aimed at business, including last year's Tomorrow's Company project. It will launch a new campaign in the spring titled Redefining Work - but without Mr Cowling.

The Personal Investment Authority (PIA) has launched a leak inquiry into how a confidential paper relating to the mis-selling of pensions found its way into the hands of our very own Nic Cicutti.

You may recall that the paper revealed that the companies involved were taking far longer to investigate their cases of mis-selling than originally planned, and that the company with the most cases outstanding was the Prudential.

Leading the PIA's inquiry is Sir Brian Cubbon GCB, former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office.

The PIA says: "In the first instance, Sir Brian Cubbon's report will be made to the chairman of the PIA, Joe Palmer, for his consideration. Subsequent to that it will be made available to the relevant authorities."

Rumours that Mr Cicutti has been moved to a safe house in Palermo have not been confirmed.

The Prudential stunned the City yesterday by poaching Nick Mustoe, a mere stripling aged 34, to head up UK equities at Prudential Portfolio Managers, one of the world's biggest investment managers with more than pounds 88bn under management.

Mr Mustoe has been prised away from PDFM, the successful pension fund specialists, where he has been responsible for a piddling pounds 3.7bn for the past 11 years. At PPM, Mr Mustoe's piggy bank will bulge to pounds 32bn.

City dealing rooms interpret this as the Pru's most aggressive attempt yet to shake off its fusty old image and promote young Turks.

At the BBC's gala dinner last week, celebrating 60 years of glorious television, the Granada table was right next to the Yorkshire Tyne Tees table.

Purely coincidentally, Granada is stalking YTT. Anyway, at a suitable pause during the festivities, Charles Allen, Granada's chief executive, goes over to Ward Thomas, head of YTT, and shakes him by the hand.

Seeing this, Granada's chairman, Gerry Robinson, leaps to his feet and does the same. Mr Robinson then leans down to the seated Mr Thomas and murmurs: "I really shouldn't be seen talking to you. Every time we're seen in public together your share price jumps up again."

More than 200 CBI delegates at the CBI conference in Harrogate had a special treat last night - fish 'n' chips opera.

The "gala" supper in Guiseley near Leeds was held at the original Harry Ramsden's fish and chip shop, the first of a large chain of shops.

Singers from Opera North circulated the tables, serenading the lucky plutocrats.

The menu consisted of fish and chips, of course, "with generous helpings of mushy peas - if the delegates' constitutions were up to it," a spokesman said.

No week is complete without at least one good rumour about Tom Rubython, founder and editor of Sunday Business. The latest is that Mr Rubython is to run as an independent MP at the next general election.

"Where would I find the time?" guffawed our hero. But he does not rule it out.